So this week’s blog will be on critiquing on Group 2’s presentation of Snap & Eat application by the Health Promotion Board
I will summarise the presentation into 3 points:Unwelcoming Onboarding, Broken Features and Poor UX.
For any application, the initial onboarding and first impression makes the biggest difference on users. A good onboarding process would smooth the user into using the application regularly and also to allow the user to make the best use of the application. In the Snap & Eat app though, users upon registering were consistently bombarded with terms, conditions and requests for permission. This sort of makes the app feel hostile or unfriendly towards the new user, rather than getting the user into the flow of things first and then requesting the permission only when the user wants to perform a related action. Since the user was the one who wants to perform the action, he/she would be more than willing to grant the app the permission at that point of time. With regards to the terms and conditions page, how this was overcome in OneService, another government app, was that the user was asked to agree to it at the bottom of the registration page and only shown the full terms upon request. This makes the process less hostile towards a new user and does not overwhelm the user with agreements and permissions. Thus the reason why it was this way, is probably due to the developers not thinking of the user first, but simply to clear their own requirements first without much concern for the user.
The presence of broken features in the app such as the food recognition function, and also including a blurb that provides a random description of the product. This seems to be indicative of how the requests of the client, seem to overrule any sense of User Experience. That developers were simply including features for the sake of the client’s request, without arguing for the user experience of how the features they want do not work or simply do not value add to the application. This, in turn, decreases the overall production value of the application, as it feels like it is not user-centric and lacks the polish of a proper app but is instead just a crude dumping ground of features from a client.
In general, the application does not seem to have much thoughtfulness for the user. Things like having to swipe the navigation bar, which is not typically intuitive to users, including large amounts of text and pushing away the key information, requesting for large amounts of information from the user even when they are not needed, or a poor choice of controls for the user that is not intuitive or convenient for the user. In general, it felt like the application was created to simply check off a checklist of required features and components, rather than a cohesive package that value-adds to a user’s experience.
With regards to Snap & Eat, while not having used the application directly, I’ve used Healthy 365 (the app for the National Steps Challenge) that is another application by the Health Promotion Board. The Healthy 365 app and Snap & Eat apps seem to be almost carbon copies of one another, with a simple reskinning of the colour of the UI and yet having almost exactly the same navigation bar, icons and additional features like the food journal.
Having had several bad experiences with the Healthy 365 app, a synchronous UI for example, whereby every action you perform prompts a “loading” symbol that freezes the entire UI. I’ve even been locked out of my account, whereby I changed my phone then attempted to restore my account, but everytime I press restore the application simply crashes. There are many fatal UI flaws within the app, and yet people use it solely due to the amount of financial benefit for the users by participating in these HPB challenges and rewards. If an actual cohesive experience was presented by HPB, the app could have much more far reaching benefits especially with such a large captive userbase.
While I’ve yet to use HPB’s new HealthHub app, which visually looks way better than their previous apps. HPB would greatly benefit from having a single well-done application that covers all their initiatives and challenges, while also providing the extra features like a food journal. Creating an app for every different challenge, and then carbon copying many of the features simply isn’t sustainable and leaves many of their users high and dry after the challenge. But having a single sustainable app, that constantly updates with new challenges and new initiatives would definitely keep users engaged to the application. While there are many health applications out there, none of them have the potential to be as customised for local needs as one that is thoughtfully developed locally.
For this to happen, HPB needs to engage a proper developer that cares such as GovTech, rather than choosing the lowest bidder for their project. Having worked at GovTech on their OneService application, I’ve seen how the team and project managers often fight back on decisions from the client side on user experience basis. Such as removing a legacy UI component that confuses the user, or by redesigning certain screens to make them more user friendly. Many of these initiatives were brought up from the team’s side rather than the client to create a more thoughtful experience for the user. When I first started my internship, the old OneService UI was horrible and clunky, however the UI components that I’ve worked on and the UI refresh is a step on the right path to make an overall better application. I think this also signifies a new direction for the development of government apps, to create an app for the people and not an app for the ministry. I think if the government wants to succeed in truly creating a smart nation, we have to start from there.